Posts Tagged ‘science teaching’

Success! a.k.a. the day my 9th graders behaved more like high schoolers than middle schoolers!

Wow. I can’t even believe what happened on Friday. After the catastrophe that started the week, I thought Wednesday through Friday would be even worse.

The week actually got better after Tuesday and ended up finishing with one of the best moments I have had with my 9th graders since the beginning of the year.

In both sections of my 9th grade general science class, we finished up a Discovery Channel show about a massive trebuchet, redistributed graded work, and continued reading The Last Book In The Universe. That’s pretty average for a Friday and the kids are always bouncing off the walls for the weekend!

Not this Friday.

This Friday they sat quietly through the entire movie.

This Friday they quickly got their work taped into their notebooks.

This Friday one student volunteered to read out loud.

This Friday they all sat and listened quietly.

This Friday almost all students followed along in their books.

It doesn’t sound for much, but for a group of about 55 9th graders who still aren’t sure why it’s even important to pass their classes, it was nothing short of a miracle!

I know that as we get nearer to the end of the school year, behavior issues will get worse, so I hope this moment will be burned into my memory forever.

NSTA 2011 Here and Gone Again

As promised, I will be writing up some of the sessions I attended this past weekend…since this was my first conference as a presenter, I spent less time in sessions as usual, but I did learn quite a few new tricks!

This weekend was also exciting since the conference was held in San Francisco – thousands of science teachers in a city with a tsunami warning; I can bet lots of lesson plans were changed (including my own) to focus on the current events in Japan.

So be on the lookout for:

  • Parent-teacher communication and involvement ideas
  • How to host a physics-themed haunted house
  • Ways to make the most of the Holt Introductory Physics textbook
  • Accessing understanding of ELL students
  • Skills to help ELL students understand science
  • Exhibit hall highlights

Junk Drawer Science

Junk Drawer Science is a new science curriculum company started by teachers with great resources for teachers.

Welcome to Junk Drawer Science: a result of years of frustration with the out-of-touch, and often-out-of date resources that have been available to us as teachers. We believe that it is time for a revolution in science education. The textbook should be relegated to its proper place. It should be a resource and no longer the focal point of our science classes!

Our mission is to provide engaging materials that stimulate learning in your students. We believe that science should not be expensive, and that the simplest lessons are often the most profound.

At the moment, they have three products available for purchase: a book full of great activities for middle and high school life science classes, a guide to using interactive notebooks in science class, and the game they created called “The Game of Evolution”.

I happen to teach with the Junk Drawer Science owners and can guarantee that their products are worth every penny. They have worked hard to develop curriculum and lesson tools that are effective in the classroom as well as easy to implement on a low (to non-existent) budget.

I guess that makes this a shameless plug: all in the name of providing the world with great teaching resources!

Unfortunately, they will not be at the NSTA conference in San Francisco, so for now, you will have to check them out online.

Why I Blog

I was talking with a teacher-friend today about why I started this blog and why I’ve stuck with it. It all started as a way to catalog all the great resources I was receiving in graduate school in a way that I could easily search and access them once I was in my own classroom. Once my student teaching began, the blog became the ideal place to process my experience and seek help from veteran teachers. Now that I am teaching, I am utilizing my grad school resources and finding it just as important to process my days in writing.

I blog because it gives me a connection to other teachers, it provides an outlet for my thoughts, and it records my experiences so I can read back through them in the future. If you have found any of my posts useful, I’m glad; if you have given me advice and suggestions, thank you(!!); and if you just read to be entertained by my antics, I hope you enjoy them – I am so thankful for technology that allows all of this to happen in one place!

I sometimes wonder why other teachers blog – feel free to share your thoughts…

My First Tears 9/29

Well, it happened. After 5 weeks of good days, today was not so great and my frustration boiled over to tears after the school day was over.

My freshman have been totally disrespectful. I don’t mind students being chatty, but they have been blatantly rude. After speaking with a veteran teacher, I started implementing some new classroom management tools. Only complicating the issue further, homecoming is this Saturday and it’s almost as important as prom here. Needless to say, even my best students are distracted. I’ve just got to figure out how to deal with it until next week.

Physics has been a challenge in an entirely different way. About half of my students are only just taking Algebra II, some are in Trig, and very few are in Calculus. I am actually excited that my kids are not the typical physics kids – I love that they are working hard to learn material that science education culture dictates is only for a certain group of elite students. However, I find myself stuck in that hard place trying to teach students the content dictated by the state when the state has left no wiggle room for students without certain math credits.

My school is only in its second year, so many of the issues we struggle with have to do with students, faculty, and administrators still settling in. The athletic teams are young, so most are not having winning seasons and the students refuse to be proud of a school that can not win. On the other hand, many students are in school because it is safer than home – gangs and drugs are a huge part of their community.

I am definitely not in an impossible situation. I know there is a solution out there; I just haven’t found my “sweet spot” when it comes to classroom management with the younger crowd.

Anywho – it’s spirit week and it’s been a blast:


CrAzY hAiR dAy!

I tried to be Ms Frizzle for nerd day, but the dress didn't quite work out.

Awesome 80s for Blast from the Past Day!

Excited for Super Hero Day tomorrow, homecoming assembly, and the homecoming football game! More to come…

Mid Week Thoughts 9/21

Well, technically today is the first day of my school week, but I’ve been thinking about school so much it feels like the middle of the week.

Tomorrow is the first day I’ll be in the room on my own since my contract has been finalized and Ben (the best long term sub EVER) is now leaving me. I’ve really enjoyed team teaching with Ben and have learned so much just from working with him! I’m a bit nervous about handling the freshmen classes alone since the rowdy boys have responded so well to having a male teacher. I’m definitely going to miss having somebody to laugh with over silly student comments and behaviors.

I’m also preoccupied with nerves over administering my first test tomorrow. I have intentionally given them a test much easier than things we have discussed in class because the kids are struggling with so many deep-seeded confidence issues that they need to prove to themselves they can do it. They have been giving up on assignments if they don’t understand or get frustrated, so I am encouraging them to at least try everything once and then come to me for help instead of just giving up. These kids have never been held to a high standard, so they have never learned how to work hard and with perseverance. I’ve already made it clear that those attitudes are not acceptable in my classroom.

Since most of our kids are at or below the poverty line, I have felt a huge burden to help them find financially viable college options. This has led me to assume the responsibility of military academy liason – I am organizing and running several events to help kids apply to the military academies. The deadlines are coming up quickly (all congressional recommendations must be submitted by October 31), so there is a lot of pressure to get this off the ground immediately. Last year was the inaugural year for the school and they did not have a 12th grade class, so this is the first year any college and career related events are necessary.

My Adopt-A-Classroom page has been an extreme blessing. Room 1007 has received way more money than I had ever expected. I am so honored that you would invest in us and I have many plans for purchasing supplies and equipment to assist the growth of my students (a class set of calculators is high on the list!).

Going into the fourth week of my first year, I’ve been doing some cognitive assessment – how am I doing? Am I managing the stress well? Where can I improve? Am I doing a good job reaching out to all my students? I am pleasantly surprised that stress has not really been a part of the last 3 weeks (other than not getting paid). I have been able to consistently plan almost a week ahead and my planning for students understanding has been right on. I need to continue to set high expectations for my kids and hold them responsible for their academic decisions. There are a handful of students I need to initiate relationships with because I still don’t know anything about them. But on the whole, I do not feel the overwhelming anxiety I was told to expect during my first year and did experience during student teaching. When I’m with my kids I’m in my happy, comfortable place.

Thanks for following and reading my mid-week thoughts – it is so helpful to have a group of educators to chat with over the daily joys and trials of teaching.

Next week is spirit week, so I think on Nerd Day I might dress up as Ms Frizzle – any suggestions as to where to find a crazy dress?!

First Year Teacher Series Week 3

Wow, the third week of school already; the week flew by so quickly I can barely remember what happened!

In Physics, the kids are finishing up linear motion and getting ready for their first test. They have been working very hard to catch up with the math they are behind on (most are just taking Algebra 2) and are starting to think like Physicists! We are having so much fun. My biggest goal for them is to learn to work harder – they all tend to be extremely lazy and refuse to believe that they will learn and grow if they practice. I am pretty confident the source of this attitude is from growing up with teachers with low expectations.

The other struggle we’ve had is understanding the concept of “units”. We spent almost an entire class period working out the difference between quantity (the thing being measured), unit (the type of measurement), and the relevant equations. I think they’re starting to get it.

My freshman course is pretty funny. They are not as much of a handful as I had anticipated, just young and immature. We have been discussing renewable and non-renewable energy sources and essential materials for survival. It’s a spiralling curriculum, so all of the content we’ll cover is related to sustainability. It will also prepare them for the state science proficiency exam they will take in 11th grade. I like that the class can be more of a seminar and less lecture. My goal for these students is to teach them to be more responsible – they see homework as an optional extracurricular activity. We’ll get there!

I saw this video on a blog I read the other day and it made me laugh because it is exactly how I feel keeping a class of thirty-something 9th graders on task:

In other news, my background check finally cleared, so I can get put on payroll this week!! A million thanks to my principal for getting that pushed through :)

First Week of School Science Activities

Since it takes awhile to get all of the administrative things out of the way in the first week of school, I am planning on focusing on mostly Nature of Science type activities. The following are some of the things I’m most excited about:

Science Is – Students brainstorm their own lists of things that Science Is and Science Is Not. Then a large list is generated and students sort words on a t-chart into what they believe science is and isn’t. We did this activity using construction paper and glue sticks to make colorful Science Is Charts!

Tower Building – Students work together to build the tallest tower of cups they can without speaking. The second time, students are allowed to talk. This encourages students to think about the importance of communication in science.

Which Is Better? – As a student guided scientific method activity, we split the students into two groups. One had to analyze which bouncey ball is better and the other which bubble wand is better. The students defined their own definition for “better” and their procedure. Afterward, they listed their steps and quickly realized they used the scientific method without realizing it!

Letter Writing – Students wrote themselves a letter setting goals for themselves for the school year. I will return their letters at the end of the semester or the end of the year.

Lab Safety – For lab safety day, we handed out the Flinn Safety Contract and students wrote short skits demonstrating 5 safe lab techniques and 5 safety violations.

T-minus 6 days…

Wow, another crazy day! We started with a session on memory techniques with a fabulous local psychologist. We worked on memorizing each other’s names (the whole faculty was there) and it made a huge impact on the community building of the faculty conference. After lunch we worked on interactive notebooks.

The best part of the day was when I blasted music in my room, borrowed a staple gun, and covered my board with fabric:

Now my board is colorful!!

Websites for Science Teachers

I am loving Making Teachers Nerdy’s post on the Top 20 Websites No Teacher Should Start the 2010-2011 Year Without! Below I’ve written a little bit about which websites I’m excited to make use of in the coming weeks.

Picnik – I have no idea what role this might play in my classroom, but it’s so fun that I’m sure it will weasel its way in somehow!

Delicious – I had started using this awhile ago, but have neglected it lately since I was teaching with my personal laptop last year. Since I’ll be using one computer at home and a different one at school, this is going to be super handy.

Dropbox – For the same reasons as above, this is going to be a lifesaver! I can access lesson plans at home and school without worrying about them getting lost in email!

Edmodo – This is a new one for me…I’m exploring all my options for how to have a class blog or website that students can be super involved in as a classroom social media type thing. As an experiment, I started a group “Just Call Me Ms Frizzle” (pass key 9219vq) – feel free to stop by and leave a note, upload a favorite article or lesson plan, or give me feedback on what social media has worked in your classroom. If your school does not have any type of online assignment giving and grading, Edmodo has everything you’ll need – and it doesn’t require students to sign up with an email address, so it’s super easy for them!

Google For Educators – A great resource as to how to use the different Google Applications (calendar, docs, etc) to maximize technology and organization in your classroom.

Live Binders – Live Binders caught my attention when I saw you could make digital binders of websites, videos, files, etc. in order to have students do digital scavenger hunts. So cool!

Webspiration – Online tool for creating mind maps, graphic organizers, etc. Another great website that is very similar is XMind.

Prezi – I LOVE this! At the Channel 13 Celebration of Teaching & Learning, I saw a presentation given with Prezi. It’s Power Point on steroids; I am not a huge Power Point in the classroom fan since it is so predictable and not interactive, so I think this will be exactly what I use to give notes and lectures through my projector.

Troovi – This is another one that gets me really excited! Since I want to incorporate pictures all over the classroom of sciencey things my students and I experience, this would be a great way for them to send me pictures without having to pay to have them printed!

VoiceThread – This is a great option for teachers who want to have online conversations with students or an option for keeping home-bound students in the loop. The website has many different options for membership (free and paid) as well as an entire article based on how to maximize VoiceThread use in the classroom.

I hope these suggestions might inspire some new way to include technology in your classroom this year. For more great teaching websites, see the full article at Making Teachers Nerdy.